Friday 13 November 2015

Underway!

After months of planning the Year 9 Challenge is well underway. Over the course of the week the boys engaged in all manner of activities, from the rigours of Bush Week to the more tailored events in and around the precincts of the city. There is no doubt that the 55 km paddle in canoes and the 55 km bike ride lie at the most demanding end of the continuum, but each and every boy, helped along by their peers, has thus far made it across the line. This is despite some very challenging weather that has involved drenching rain, high winds and temperatures that have varied dramatically over successive days. While there is ecstatic relief for those who reached the finish line, there is also the satisfaction that comes from working collaboratively in teams towards common goals and the reward associated with persistence and perseverance that triumphs over fatigue. Manly Beach has seen its own share of activity with the boys learning the basics of surfing and water safety, aided by some larger than normal swells that has seen boards and bodies tested on occasions. Indoor rock climbing, the Sydney Cricket Ground, NIDA, The Rocks and Luna Park hosted various activities, providing opportunities for growth, team work and skill building. While it is still early days there has been much by way of ‘education’ over the first part of this unique educational program and as always, the boys have responded with integrity and purpose to each activity.

In the aftermath of the HSC examinations, Year 7 and 8 Assessment Week has been undertaken which provides summative assessment experiences for courses of study across the second semester. Rather than enter into the full examination experience in the Junior Secondary, the boys are given a formal testing regime but within the confines of their existing classes. These graduate to more formal examinations, as is the case with Year 10 who began their end of semester examinations on Wednesday. At the same time, Year 11 students have moved swiftly into HSC courses of study and the boys will be issued with work expectations over the summer break so that they return ready and armed for the remainder of their graduation year. The fusion of the formal assessment process and the report writing associated with it is indicative of the final stages of the year coming into view. With only 13 schooling days remaining to the year, there is much that needs to be done so there will be the perennial flurry to ensure that all of the requirements for 2015 are closed off over the next few weeks.

Special thanks are extended to the army of volunteers who have supported the boys with special provisions in their examinations and assessments through the year. Over 50 parents, grandparents and friends have acted as supervisors, scribes, readers or invigilators in over 400 examinations and major assessments across the year and they have done so with enormous grace and energy. The volunteers gathered with staff in the Learning Enrichment Centre for mass recently to give thanks for the collective efforts that enable the boys to have the best arrangements and provisions when undertaking summative assessment tasks. Special thanks are forwarded to Ms Kim Prodinger and Mr Paul Bevis for the hours, the sweat and the tears that go into the logistics of this time consuming but deeply pastoral process.

The gloss and glamour of the Blue & White, the annual event which formally concludes the Year 12 graduation process, was held at The Dome at Homebush on Friday evening. It is arguably the biggest event in the social calendar on the North Shore of Sydney with over 1,500 attending, including graduates, their parents, grandparents, extended members of the family, and of course, partners. Each boy is presented to the community having satisfied all of the requirements for graduation, having earned the right to walk down the red carpet and receive his certificate on the dais of graduation. It is a time honoured and formal rite of passage, one which resonates strongly with the families and teachers who have supported the boys over the course of their schooling and can now celebrate the conclusion of a busy schooling year, and the end of the first formal chapter of a young man’s life. Special thanks are extended to parent representatives – Jenny Drennan and Michelle Wilcox, who have worked tirelessly over months to ensure the success of the evening and to the House staff who assisted with the smooth conduct of events on the night.

A solemn Remembrance Day service was held in the Gartlan on Wednesday to commemorate that day on the 11th hour of the 11th month in 1918, when after four years of incessant and vicious war, the guns fell silent. Only those who lived through it could really know the trauma that was part of it and yet, it is important today that these events are acknowledged as part of efforts to work assiduously for peace in our community and our world. Mr James Rodgers coordinated a program that involved readings, prayer, symbol and ritual that brought home the horrors of war, something that few Australians have thankfully experienced. A feature of the assembly was those who shared their own stories of family connections to war and conflict. Mr Peter Kovacs was one of many:

I have relations who served in wars on both sides of my family. Leo Waterford, my maternal grandfather, served in World War 1 as a Lieutenant, mainly in France. He was mentioned in despatches six times and was severely wounded when he went to the rescue of another soldier. He was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry.

My uncle, Brian Waterford, enlisted for World War 2. Five members of the Waterford family served in World War 2. Two of the brothers were prisoners of war in Singapore.

Louis Kovacs, my father, was born in Hungary and served compulsorily military training in the Hussars. When Nazi Germany overtook Hungary, to avoid conscription into the German army, he joined the country police. Louis was later captured and treated as a prisoner of war by the American troops and returned to Hungary under Russian control. He was then put into a Russian concentration camp for two years but he escaped to Australia as a displaced person.

The stupidity of war is quite evident. Louis Kovacs and Brian Waterford became brothers in law and firm friends.

Amid the busy crush of Year 9 activities, assessments and examinations, sporting training and other calendared events, the need to pause and recognise the fallen, the displaced and the traumatised, along with the need for peace, is both exigent and necessary.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

 

Dr Paul Hine